United States District Court, D. Hawaii
ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART UNITED
STATES' MOTION IN LIMINE TO EXCLUDE REFERENCE TO PRIOR
STATE COURT VERDICT, ECF NO. 395
Michael Seabright Chief United States District Judge
United States seeks to exclude the jury verdict and related
documents from the state civil lawsuit involving Gerard Puana
and Florence Puana (“the Puanas”) and Katherine
Kealoha, Puana v. Kealoha, No. 13-1-0686-03-VLC
(Haw. 1st Cir. Ct.). ECF No. 395; see also ECF No.
727. The United States seeks exclusion based on several
grounds: (1) relevance; (2) the rule against hearsay; and (3)
Federal Rule of Evidence 403. See ECF No. 395 at
PageID #3259; ECF No. 727 at PageID #6255.
reasons set forth below, the United States' Motion in
Limine, ECF No. 395, is GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART.
parties do not appear to dispute the following facts: The
Puanas filed a state civil complaint on March 7, 2013 against
Katherine Kealoha, alleging that she had breached her
fiduciary duty and defrauded them of money from a reverse
mortgage taken out by Florence Puana and investments made by
Gerard Puana. That case was Puana v. Kealoha, No.
13-1-0686-03-VLC. Katherine Kealoha filed a counterclaim
against the Puanas on April 29, 2013, alleging that the
Puanas made misrepresentations about Florence Puana's
reverse mortgage and Gerard Puana's mortgage payments,
and that the lawsuit was an abuse of process. On June 19,
2013, Keatherine Kealoha was deposed in Puana v.
Kealoha. On June 22, 2013, Katherine Kealoha reported
her mailbox stolen. Gerard Puana was charged in this court by
complaint with destruction of a letter box on July 1, 2013
and was subsequently indicted for the same charge on July 11,
2013. On December 4, 2014, a criminal trial of Gerard Puana
based on this charge commenced, and a mistrial was declared
that same day. This charge was dismissed with prejudice on
December 16, 2014. The civil jury trial between the Puanas
and Katherine Kealoha began in January 2015, culminating with
a verdict on February 12, 2015. The jury found in favor of
Katherine Kealoha on all claims and counterclaims, awarding
her general damages of $200, 000 and punitive damages of
United States' theory in the instant case is that
Katherine Kealoha, Louis Kealoha, Derek Wayne Hahn, Minh-Hung
Nguyen, and Gordon Shiraishi (“Defendants”)
conspired together to (among other things): (1) frame Gerard
Puana for the theft of Katherine and Louis Kealoha's
mailbox and (2) subsequently attempt a coverup of the
framing. The Defendants' alleged acts to frame Gerard
Puana occurred prior to the verdict in the civil case. Some
of the alleged coverup acts occurred after the verdict-e.g.,
lying to the grand jury.
February 11, 2019, the United States filed its Motion in
Limine. ECF No. 395. Defendants Katherine and Louis Kealoha
filed their Opposition on February 25, 2019. ECF No. 442. The
United States filed its Reply on March 6, 2019. ECF No. 478.
At the March 12, 2019 hearing on the Motion in Limine, the
court held its ruling in abeyance pending hearing evidence
presented at trial. See ECF No. 501; Tr. 3/12/19 at
16:8-9, 18:3-4, ECF No. 513. During trial, further briefing
was requested concerning admissibility of documents related
to the prior civil verdict. See ECF No. 713. On June
13, 2019, the government and Katherine Kealoha filed
supplemental memoranda. ECF Nos. 727, 729.
United States argues that any information about the prior
verdict, including related documents,  is inadmissible.
See generally ECF Nos. 395, 727. The court will
allow the fact that the Puanas lost the civil case and thus
owe Katherine Kealoha a significant sum of money to be
presented to the jury for the purpose of showing the
Puanas' bias against Katherine Kealoha.
the court finds the prior verdict and related documents to be
inadmissible. First, they are inadmissible hearsay to the
extent that they are offered to prove the truth of the
matters asserted. Second, they do not fall under any hearsay
exceptions, including either the Rule 803(14) hearsay
exception for records of documents affecting an interest in
property or the Rule 803(15) hearsay exception for statements
in documents affecting an interest in property. Third, they
have no legally operative effect that is relevant to this
case, so they cannot be admitted for a non-hearsay purpose.
And fourth, even if otherwise admissible, Rule 403 bars
admission because any probative value is substantially
outweighed by the dangers of unfair prejudice, confusing the
issues, misleading the jury, and undue delay.
The Puanas' Bias
trial, the court has allowed Katherine Kealoha to narrowly
discuss the prior civil verdict, including the amount owed,
for the non-hearsay purpose of showing bias, specifically
Gerard and Florence Puana's bias against Katherine
Kealoha. The Puanas were both witnesses in the instant trial,
and the outcome of the Puana v. Kealoha trial is
relevant as to possible biases. In fact, the court instructed
the jury as to the limited purpose of this
Kealoha argues that the prior civil verdict and related
documents are admissible for the purpose of proving the truth
of the matter asserted because they fall under a hearsay
exception. See ECF No. 442 at ...